The fear was back, stronger than ever, Allura shaking violently as Lotor slumped downwards. She barely took notice of the Drule prince sprawled in an uncomfortable position across her lap, she was biting back a hysterical scream. She didn’t voice it, not wanting to draw the danger that lurked out in this hot wasteland to them. Somewhere, maybe closer than she wanted to believe, lurked the Keraclon. How many she did not know, but even one would be a hazard, Allura taking in a desperate gulp of air.
Allura now understood why she kept filling with fear, the reason why ever since she had drawn near to this continent, she had been plagued with doubts and terror. Such fear that should have been strong enough to get her to turn back if not for her strong sense of right and wrong. That was both a blessing and a curse, Allura wishing she had given in to the urge to flee upon the first tasting of fear.
The Keraclon were out there, and with them, came their threat. She was feeling a part of it right now, this all consuming fear she was experiencing. The Keraclon were known for their ability to induce fear in any and all creatures, it was a simple but effective mind trick they played. That they were sending out so strong a wave of fear surely meant they were trying to keep any and all help away from Prince Lotor.
Now that she thought about it, she realized she hadn’t seen any animals that were native to this continent, nor any birds that dared the heat to fly about this land. If Allura hadn’t been battling her own fear she would have picked up on that sooner, and she almost cursed herself for overlooking such a detail. That they could chase away so many of the continent’s wildlife in so big an area spoke of the power these particular Keraclon’s possessed.
As well as the numbers, Allura wondering just how many were out there, searching for Lotor. She also wondered just what he had done to come across such a determined group, Allura knowing the Drules went out of their way to avoid encountering the Keraclon. It was the same with the rest of the Denubian Galaxy, the people no matter the race fearing these nightmares.
She shivered again, and glanced down at the face of prince Lotor, seeing the tremble of his eyelids. That surely meant he dreamt, and the way he seemed to writhe spoke volumes of the dreams that plagued him. The Keraclon were affecting his dreaming images, allowing him to see something he feared. Allura wondered what sort of sights could disturb a Drule prince so much, especially one with the reputation that Lotor had.
Just thinking of his reputation made her as angry as she was fearful, Allura remembering the stories, some she had even had the misfortune to witness herself. Of people being enslaved, worlds destroyed, lives ruined. Even her own flesh and blood had not been able to escape, her cousin Romelle suffering as Lotor’s personal slave. For that reason alone she should leave him, let the fate the Keraclon’s had planned for him happen.
And yet she hesitated when he moaned, Allura ever the bleeding heart. That moan held genuine fear in it, laced with the pain of his injuries. Allura tried to push back her fear to look him over, and assess the extent of his injuries. She told herself that was all she was going to do, to check him over and see if he had a fighting chance against his Keraclon pursuers. She certainly wasn’t going to stick around long enough to become a target of that race herself!
And she would be a target, the Keraclon knowing no mercy, not to Drules, and certainly not to humans. What a find they would have, to not only have the crown prince of the Doom Empire, but the princess of Arus. She might not have an empire to her name, but she did have Voltron, Allura knowing she would make a fine hostage for the Keraclon. She shivered at the thought, not wanting to think of the demented things they would do to her while she was in their care.
She gave a sharp jerk of her head, and focused on Lotor. And gasped as she noticed the lacerations all over his body. His uniform had been torn in many places, the thick fibers turned into jagged tears where the shrapnel had pummeled his body. She could make out his wounded skin through the tears, blood having soaked the fabric around the cuts. Some still bled, trickles that fell onto the tar, and onto the white spandex of her uniform.
His one arm was bent at an awkward angle, Allura realizing it was broken and would need setting. Some internal instinct took over, Allura shifting enough to get Lotor off her lap, the girl removing her pack. Sifting through the contents, she found the small medical kit, and broke open it’s seal. Gauze, bandages, cleansing cloths, and various ointments and pills were revealed to her, Allura setting about to trying to staunch the flow of Lotor’s bloodiest wound.
As she worked, the prince kept on dreaming, moaning softly as his fingers flexed. He tried to move his broken arm, as though to ward off some invisible attacker. It only succeeded in making him cry out in pain, Lotor’s eyes snapping open once more. He stared glassy eyed at Allura, the girl looking startled at him. Her hands had frozen on the wound on his stomach, fingers still pressing the gauze down. He didn’t look like he realized she was really there, and yet he began to smile.
“Allura…” He said, and once again tried to move his broken arm. This time he grunted from the pain, teeth clenched together to hold in the scream. His eyes widened, and he lost some of that unfocused look, expression almost amazed. “That hurts….it can’t be a dream then. You’re here…”
“Not for much longer.” Allura said, abandoning her hands’ hold on the gauze. “I’m leaving now…you can keep the pack…use it to patch yourself up…Maybe it’ll help you survive for longer than a few seconds.” She felt terrible for saying that, but she was trying to be hard, cold and impervious to anything he might have to say. He was her enemy, and one who had tormented her, her family, and her people for nearly two years time. His crimes were only lessened in the face of the misdeeds his father had committed over sixteen years time, and though Zarkon was the bigger monster, Allura did not feel safe to be around a conscious Lotor.
“You’re leaving?!” He sounded disappointed, Lotor frowning at her. His eyes blinked rapidly, as though he was struggling to stay awake. Allura gave a stiff nod, doing an awkward inch back from him. This time he reached out with his good arm, fingers locking in place around her wrist. She noted one of the seams on the glove had split
apart, revealing two of his fingers, long nails broken during his ship’s crash.
“Let go of me.” Allura was terse, trying to jerk back at the same time he pulled. It nearly set her off balance, Allura lashing out with her hand, to push it against Lotor’s chest. He was weakened, easily falling onto his back at her push, and she stared surprised.
“Allura don’t go.” Lotor said, struggling to sit back up.
“I have to.” She retorted. “The Keraclon are coming.” She saw the fear flicker for a moment in his eyes, he knew what that meant, and the tortures he would suffer at their hands if caught by them.
“The Keraclon are already here.” Lotor said softly, earning a paranoid look around from Allura. “You can feel it, can’t you? The waves of fear they are sending out?”
“Yes.” A one word answer, spoken through clenched teeth. “What have you done Lotor?” He flashed her a confused look, Allura narrowing her eyes at him. “They must want you pretty badly. What did you do to gain their attention?”
He tried for an innocent look, Lotor touching his injured arm with his good hand. She sighed then, thinking he would not answer and was surprised when he did. “I didn’t have to do anything but exist. Allura, they’re EVIL. They take pleasure in hunting down others, in torturing them….”
“I used to think no one could be more evil than the Drule…” Allura whispered, shaken to hear the monster that had frightened her for so many years could name someone else as evil.
“Someday I’d like to debate with you on what is and isn’t evil for a Drule.” Lotor replied. “But now isn’t the time. Not when they are out there, searching…”
And every second they spent talking might be the second that cost her, her escape from the Keraclon. She started to stand, and Lotor attempted to mimic her movements. He was still lethargic and out of it, falling down to his knees from his attempt at going upright. Allura felt a twinge of pity go through her to see the prince fall, but she stopped herself from bending over him.
“I have to go.” Allura told him, and began to turn from him. The fear was consuming her, telling her to leave him to his fate, to run as fast as she could and not look back.
“Take me with you.” Lotor said, and it sounded like an order.
“You’ll only slow me down…” Allura said, trying to firm her resolve. His hand closed around her ankle, Lotor tugging urgently on it. She glanced down at him, and saw him looking urgent at her. “I can’t afford the risk of you…”
“Don’t leave me.” Lotor said, and somehow he managed to keep his request from being outright pleading. His eyes shown with pain and the fear he was fighting with, Lotor’s voice going hoarse in the moment. “Don’t leave me to die…”
The words got to her, a tight feeling arising in her chest at his earnest plea. Lotor truly believed he would die if she left him behind. What’s worse, Allura knew it to be true, his fate in her hands. She tried to remind herself of all the bad things he had done, and yet couldn’t justify giving him a death sentence. Maybe if she could have been sure the Keraclon would have shown mercy to him, she would have abandoned him, but what she knew of the alien race was exactly the opposite.
“All right.” She said out loud, giving him a fierce glare. “All right, damn you!” He relaxed his grip on her ankle with a sigh, Lotor almost closing his eyes. She was tempted to kick him then, Allura almost snarling. “Do not go to sleep on me now!”
His eyes quickly opened, Lotor looking guilty. “I won’t…” He said, and offerer his attempt at a disarming smile. “I’ll rest when we get out of this mess.”
“IF we get out of it.” Allura corrected him, kneeling down to gather up her pack’s belongings. Thankfully he did not try to talk to her as she stuffed the pack with the med kit, waiting until she stood again. “Well?” Allura demanded, glaring at him. “Get up!”
“I’ll need some assistance in that regard.” Lotor admitted with a rueful smile. She eyed him suspiciously, getting the feeling he was enjoying what he had to tell her. “I think my ankle is twisted…”
“Of for heaven’s sake!” Allura muttered, and knelt down next to him. She was leery of touching him, and yet Allura found herself placing his good arm across her shoulders. Lotor leaned into her, and she swore he took the opportunity to sniff at her hair. Anger flared at his violation of her personal space, and it helped chase away the fear the Keraclon were assaulting the area with.
“Up you go.” Allura said, and together they stood, Lotor leaning heavily into her. She gritted her teeth at the forced closeness between them, Allura walking them as quickly as she could manage. Lotor stumbled, and did an awkward hop, trying to keep up with her hurried pace. It left him tired, Lotor closing his eyes every chance he got, Allura constantly having to jostle him to keep him from falling asleep.
“How far is your lion?” Lotor asked, and she hesitated.
“How do you know I’m with my lion?”
He fixed her with a belittling look. “Honestly Allura, you’re out in the middle of nowhere, in your pilot’s uniform. Of course you’re with your lion.” He looked around then. “Is your teammates near by?”
She hesitated, not sure she should admit that she was here alone. “Keith and the others are…near.” Allura figured once they decoded her message, the Voltron Force would be on their way to the planet. Lotor need never know she lied about it.
“Near eh?” Lotor gave her a searching look, and she snapped out a command to pay attention to the ground they walked on. “I bet the Keraclon’s fear waves have chased them off. Bunch of cowards.”
“They are not cowards!” Allura snapped. “They are brave young men, and they would fight off the Keraclons influence to rescue a person in need.”
“But only if that person wasn’t a Drule.” Retorted Lotor. “Face it Allura, as soon as they saw me, they would have turn tails and run. And that’s if they didn’t shoot me first!”
Allura gasped. “Take that back! The Voltron Force would never shoot an injured man!”
“Not even if he was the greatest threat they’ve ever known?” Lotor wanted to know, with an odd quirking of his lips.
“Not even if.” Allura insisted.
“I can’t tell if you are just that naive, or if that’s really the truth.” Lotor murmured, walking with an exaggerated limp. She would have colored then, embarrassed by the naivety he perceived in her, but a sound was heard. Both of them instantly whipped their heads about, trying to ascertain where the sound had come from. The anger she had felt over Lotor’s words faded, the fear rising in degrees within her.
“What was that…” Allura began to ask, but Lotor let out a hiss for her to be quiet. He was scanning the area, though what he thought he could do, Allura did not know. And then she heard it, like a dozen claws scraping on rock, the sharp click clack of the Keraclon’s feet approaching. She couldn’t tell how many were drawing near, the scrape of claws distorted the sound. It could have been one, it could have been a dozen, she had no way of knowing for sure.
Stiffening, she glanced at Lotor, eyes showing her fear. She didn’t need a mirror to know they were going all white, Allura shaking violently. Lotor’s eyes remained golden, black slits thick, not betraying what he felt. He locked eyes with her, and did a subtle nod of his head, Allura glancing at an outcropping of rocks. It was just small enough for a slim human to fit through, Allura’s eyes widening in shock.
Silently she mouthed his name, a question in her eyes. Was he really going to let her hide, while he stayed out in the open? From the nod of his head, she assumed yes, Lotor trying to limp forward with her. She began to shake her head, and he mouthed her name, eyes looking furious. They seemed to tell her not to argue with him, Allura going to her knees to crawl into the space.
Lotor positioned himself to the side of the rocks, leaning against them. He was drawing his sword, though what he thought to do with it, she couldn’t guess. The click clack of dozens of claws scraping on the rock increased in tempo, the Keraclons being drawn by the hum of lazon. They had to know it was Lotor’s sword that made the sound, and it drew the Keraclon’s to him, the aliens eager to lay claws on their prey.
Allura’s fear was such that she almost forgot she had her own weapon on the side of her hip holster, a pistol that was painted white to match her uniform. Her hands fumbled to draw it, Allura shaking as she held it before her. She waited, holding her breath, fearing the sound of it being expelled would attract attention to her hiding spot. And then she saw it, a lone Keraclon coming out into the open.
It was fiercesome because it made itself that way, projecting an image that would horrify it’s prey. Allura squinted her eyes shut, and told herself she wasn’t seeing a demon straight from the pits of hell, but an alien cloaked with telepathy that was based on fear. She tried to distract herself by thinking of what Lotor was seeing, the prince drawing in an angry breath, and tensing with his sword. He looked ready to lunge forward and attack the Keraclon, wanting to strike down whatever image it was showing to him.
He didn’t talk, didn’t make a sound save for an angry growl. The Keraclon paused to look him over, a deep laughter rumbling out of it’s chest. The laughter was unlike anything Allura had ever heard, it nearly caused her to wet herself in fear, and she placed the heel of her hand to her mouth to muffle her panicked sounds. Allura tried to remind herself whatever she was seeing, and hearing was not real, that somewhere beneath the fear and illusion was the real Keraclon. And nothing could be as terrifying as the devil she saw now, the creature looking like a warped image of her father’s killer.
The claws scraped again, the only sound perhaps that was of the Keraclon’s true form. Allura took a steady aim as it drew closer to Lotor, noting it was mocking the prince with it’s slow pace. The Keraclon knew he couldn’t escape, not with his twisted foot limiting his walk to a slow, dragging limp. The Keraclon seemed to relish agitating the prince, slowly striding forward, it’s horrible laughter echoing around them.
She broke before Lotor did, screaming in fear. The Keraclon turned, her voice taking it by surprise. It hadn’t known she was there, so focused on Lotor. As it faced her hiding spot, Allura opened fire, her hand shaking but managing a somewhat steady aim to catch the Keraclon in the chest. It screamed, more outraged than in pain, the waves of fear coursing through her increasing. It made Allura shoot off another shot, the princess wanting the object of her fear dead.
It would take three more shots before the Keraclon fell to the tar covered ground, body twitching. She stared at it all the while, waiting in fear for this particular nightmare to rise again. It didn’t, and it wasn’t until Lotor limped over to it, that Allura realized her mistake. She hadn’t used a killing charge, but a stunning one, the Keraclon still alive. The image never wavered, the creature staring at her with open eyes. Those eyes seemed to bulge when Lotor stabbed his sword into the general area of its chest, the Drule prince giving a mighty wrench of his sword.